Opportunity often comes knocking in the strangest of forms. When you’re thinking about your dream job and the arduous journey that will take you there, you’re rarely expecting said dream job to fall on your lap.
In theory, we all know we have to be brave, work hard, put ourselves out there and chase opportunities and experience that will add more stepping stones towards that perfect career.
As we said, in theory, we all know this. But putting it into practice can be a very different challenge. Which risks are the right risks? What will help you progress? How do you know which career decision is the right one for you?
The truth is, you often don’t. But being brave and taking those risks is half the battle to finding out. Darrin Berge is the vice-president and creative director at HelloWorld, a marketing platform for some of the world’s top brands.
“I’ve been here for about 14 years and it’s a wonderful place,” he said. It would be easy to assume Berge was always interested in marketing and worked his way up the career ladder. However, if you did that, you’d be wrong.
Taking the scenic route
“It’s a pretty crazy story,” said Berge, who started in college in pre-med before jumping into economics and management. However, that wasn’t where is passion lay. “As soon as I graduated college I went off to California because I always wanted to be an animator.”
Berge went to Hollywood to attend animation school. However, after being there for the 1992 Los Angeles riots and the 1994 Northridge earthquake, which devastated lives, Berge decided it was time to go. “By chance, there was a company back in Michigan that was doing Disney animated story books.”
He moved back to Michigan for a job with the company. However, as it wouldn’t start for months, Berge bounced around different jobs to keep his head above water, one of which was working at a bar.
“I’d get on the microphone and do voices, saying we’re going to close the place and when we’d close, I’d just mess around doing different celebrity impressions,” he said. “There was a person there that worked at one of Detroit’s biggest comedy clubs and he said there was an improv troop that’s going to have auditions, you should audition.’
“That decision changed my life,” he said. “It was from there that I ended up meeting my wife.” With a marriage that spans more than 20 years and 11 children’s books, which Berge and his wife released together, it’s safe to say joining that improv troop was the best risk he ever took.
So, comedy brought him to his now wife, how did it bring to HelloWorld? Again, chance opportunity came knocking.
Comedy is an open door
The comedy club led him to doing comedy on radio and this is where someone who worked at HelloWorld, known at the time as ePrize, heard of Berge. “He said: ‘Hey, you’re an artist, we’re looking for artists to come and do some promotions and animations, maybe you can bring your skills to where I work.’”
Berge said one of the great things about HelloWorld was it was a place where creativity was encouraged. “There was no limits. If you had an idea, we talked about it.”
‘Whatever drives you, take a chance and put it out there because you don’t know what doors will open’
– DARRIN BERGE
With technology moving at the pace that it is and animation becoming more and more ambitious, I asked Berge how hard it was from a creative point of view to work with the technology side of things.
He said understanding where the software developers are coming from is key. Knowing when to let creative ideas be at the mercy of the technology in front of them is important too.
“We have to be on the same page together,” he said. “We could come up with the craziest idea but will it make the experience less because we’re waiting for things that haven’t happened.”
Berge said throughout his career, his biggest challenges was overcoming his own fear of incorporating his background in animation and comedy into his job. “It’s risk-taking. ‘Do I have something to offer that’s not the norm?’ I didn’t come from a design background.”
He said he was very fortunate in following the risks that brought him to a place where he could do what he loves. “When you’re doing what you love it doesn’t even feel like you’re at work.”
Asking someone what they like to do is at the heart of any career advice he gives to people. “Give it a shot, take a risk, try it out, talk to people.”
“Whatever drives you, take a chance and put it out there because you don’t know what doors will open.”
Berge also advises leaders to stay out of their teams’ way in order to get the most out of them. “Let them do their thing,” he said. “Stay out of their way and let them work when they want to work.”
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